Bromeliad Classification Overview

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Classification

Bromeliad Flower Family Classification Overview by Bromeliads.info

The bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae) consists of 51 genera and about 1,500 strictly American species. They grow from the dry deserts of southwestern United States to equatorial tropical rain forests. Based on growth habits and other characteristics, Bromeliaceae is divided into the subfamilies Pitcairnioideae, Tillandsioideae and Bromelioideae.

Members of the subfamily Pitcairnioideae are mainly terrestrial plants with heavy spines on their leaf edges. They grow in soil or on rocks and do not have a leaf rosette that traps water. The genera belonging to this subfamily commonly cultivated are Dyckia, Hechtia, Pitcirnia and Puya.

The subfamily Tillandsioideae contains the least number of genera but the largest number of species, of which many are cultivated. Plants in this group have smooth or entire leaf margins, unusual foliage markings and colors. Some species produce fragrant flowers. Plants in the genera Guzmania, Tillandsia and Vriesea are the more commonly cultivated members of this subfamily.

Bromelioideae, the third subfamily, has the most bromeliad genera grown as garden and interior plants. It encompasses 30 genera with the widest range of plant forms, and accordingly the largest number of cultivated species. Subfamily members are mostly epiphytic, leaf edges are almost all spiny, foliage has attractive markings and patterns, and the leaves are usually arranged in rosettes which may be cup-shaped. Aechmea, Billbergia, Cryptanthus, Neoregelia and Nidularium are the most popular genera of this subfamily.

Commonly Cultivated Genera

  • Aechmea. Most of the 150 species in this genus are epiphytic, have deep cups to hold water and outstanding foliage all year long. The leaf edges are spined and the inflorescence are spectacular. Aechmea fasciata, one of the most popular bromeliads, is often called the urn or living vase plant because it appears to have provided a vase for its predominately pink inflorescence.
  • Ananas. The commercial edible pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a member of this genus. There is a variegated form of this species (Ananas comosus variegatus) that has green, cream and pink striped leaves that form rosettes 2 feet or more across. There is a smaller species, Ananas nanus, that is commonly grown as an interior plant. It has arching, 12 to 15-inch grayish-green leaves surrounding a 15- inch spike of red buds resembling a pincushion. The buds open into purple flowers which are followed by a 2-inch high, fragrant, edible pineapple.
  • Billbergia. Billbergias are tall and urn-shaped with spiny edged leaves. They are usually epiphytic and the foliage is often attractively variegated, banded or mottled. Although short-lived, inflorescence are very colorful.
  • Cryptanthus. These plants are small, terrestrial, sometimes stoloniferous with flat, basal, symmetrically arranged, variously colored mottled or stripped leaves. They are grown mainly as foliage plants but their tiny white flowers, emerging low in the cups, are very attractive. Plants of this genus are commonly referred to as “earth stars” because their leaves grow low and parallel to the ground in a star-like arrangement. The species Cryptanthus bivattatus and several of its cultivators are among the most widely grown for use as interior plants.
  • Guzmania. Bromeliads in this genus have thin, glossy, strap-like, smooth-edged leaves which form a water-holding rosette. There are thin brown, purple or maroon lines which run parallel along the length of the leaves. Clusters of red, white or yellow flowers appear from behind orange, yellow or red bracts on a terminal spike. They are mostly epiphytic, however, a few are terrestrial.
  • Neoregelia. These epiphytic bromeliads develop blue or white flowers just above the water level in the cup. The central portion of the leaves surrounding the flowers turn rosy red. The spiny-edged leaves may also have red spots and markings. Some of the species develop red leaf tips and are often called “painted fingernail.”
  • Nidularium. Plants in this genus are often confused with those in the genus Neoregelia. They both have bird’s nest type flower heads; however, Nidularium inflorescence shows the bracts rather distinctly while the inflorescence is buried in the leaf rosette of Neoregelia. These medium-sized, epiphytic plants have broad, flexible, lightly spined leaves that form an open rosette.
  • Tillandsia. With nearly 400 species this genus is the largest, most diverse and widely distributed genus in the bromeliad family. Most are epiphytic, except for a few species that grow on rocks. Plant species vary in size from tiny to large. Some species have leaves that are tough and string-like; others have soft, thin, strap-like leaves. In still others the lower part of the leaf is spoon shaped. Often, the leaves are covered with a gray fuzz or scales. The inflorescence is spectacular in some species consisting usually of blue flowers with brightly colored bracts.
  • Vriesea. With more than 200 species this genus is the second largest but most hybridized and cultivated genus in the bromeliad family. These are medium size, mostly epiphytic plants with soft or firm, variously green but often spotted, blotched or distinctly marked leaves. The usually long-lasting inflorescence have yellow, green or white flowers and brightly colored bracts. The inflorescence may be upright like a spear, pendulous or even curved. Plants in this genus are very susceptible to injury from cold temperatures.
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21 Responses to “Bromeliad Classification Overview”

  1. jaron w p says:

    this article is listed as one for beginners, but it needs more definition of terms such as “epiphitic” and “entire leaf margin”.

  2. admin says:

    @Jaron – epiphitic means: A plant which naturally grows upon another plant but does not derive any nourishment from it. Many of the orchids in cultivation are epiphytic.

    leaf margin means: The edge of the leaf. Much like the margins on a paper or similar margins.

    undulated leaf margin means: The leaf margin appears wavy in a three-dimensional sense; the waves are perpendicular to the plane of the leaf.

    sinuate leaf margin means: The outline of a sinuate leaf. Imagine the outline of gentle rolling waves. The “waves” may be relatively large or small, but they are on the same plane as the leaf itself.

    Hope this helps!

  3. J C EDDINS says:

    I WOULD LIKE A SIMPLE “OVERALL” CARE FOR THESE PLANTS.

    EVERY GARDENER I ASK HAS A DIFFERENT ANSWER FROM VERY MOIST SOIL TO VERY DRY SOIL!

    HELP.

    HELP

  4. Bill Munk says:

    I purchased a small Tillandsia cyanea (after it had flowered). Will this plant repeat-bloom? (it seems to be growing a new whorl of leaves). Are there any articles related to this species?

  5. jace says:

    Can you show pictures of plants to help one classify same ?

  6. judy kohn says:

    What a lovely website! Two months ago I received a bromeliad for my birthday. It seems to be thriving. The flower is still attractive and this morning I noticed that one “pup” is starting to grow. I would really like to know its genera (I suspect it is a pretty common one, but it doesn’t seem to fit any of your descriptions). However it looks very much like the second plant from the right on your composite photo (dark green broad strap-like leaves and a bright pink rosette formed by the upper leaves). Many thanks, Judy

  7. Will George says:

    I love bromeliads, but I don’t have much luck with them. I hope to learn more from this site about proper care.

  8. Shirley A. Plue says:

    The plant has 1 in. green leaves, some starting other tubes. The center has a tall stem, which criss-crosses into a red bloom making a shape like the feathers of an arrow. I keep the tubes filled with water and it continues to grow, but is losing it’s red color. It was deep red when I got it.

    Can you identify it for me? How do I get the color back? It has been near a window. Perhaps that is not good!?!

    Thanks,
    Shirley A. Plue

  9. Harvey Oury says:

    We have a bromeliad growing in our yard in Sanibel Florida. When it blooms we take pictures and send them to different sources but no one has yet been able to tell us what it is. It is incredibly exotic with deep coral stems and lavender to purple to deep blue bloom tips with very sharp stickers.

    Can you help us identify it?

  10. Annamari says:

    Posting No. 9 sounds like Aechmea Weilbachii possibly – hard to say without a picture though!

  11. penny says:

    We received a Bromelaid when my father passed, and was beautiful all thru the winter and now (May 09) the leaf tips have gotten brown and dried and he looks very sickly- any tips??

  12. Jo says:

    I received instructions to give my Aechmea teen-age pups 4 hours of direct sunlight each day, from a green house in Richmond. Consequently they have been on my south facing porch, in full sun – until about noon, and seem to be surviving and not showing any cries for help. The temps were about 100 this past week and I keep a ceiling fan going almost all of the time for my orchids and ferns. The pups are about a year old and growing daily. I have never fed them. Will take them indoors in Oct. Can’t wait for their blooms!

  13. lisa says:

    My plan has been in flower for at least 8 months up until now and the flower seems to have dried up and also gone hollow inside, even though new shoots are developing any tips

  14. Nancy Edge says:

    I just recently bought a bromeliad plant it already had red bloom,I read something that said to cut the blooom out,I really need to know if that is true and if so how do I do it?Please let me know exactly how to care for it.Thanks~Nancy~

  15. James Dikes says:

    HI, My name is Jim, and some friends just gave me a bromiliad for a house warming gift. It is beautiful and large (over 2′ across at base) and tall (about 2′ high)with dark green leaves and a brilliant red flower stalk about 2′ high. I don’t see anything in your descriptions that match this. Could you please help me out? I’m particularly interested in required lighting requirements.

    Jim

  16. Spicey says:

    i bought a bromealiad on a branch. was told not to expose to sunlight. i’ve placed it in my kitchen and spray the roots with water. is this correct?

  17. Maureen Gordon says:

    i have 3 plants one looks great the other 2 are turning brown on the top and tips. what am i doing wrong?

  18. KAREN KRESNAK says:

    I NOW AM THE PROUD OWNER OF MY FIRST BROMELIAD, BUT I DON;T KNOW IF I SHOULD KEEP IT IN FULL SUN OR PART SHADE OR FULL SHADE. I JUST DON’T KNOW. SO FAR IT HAS BEEN MOVED FROM POOL SIDE WITH FULL SUN, TO 3 HOURS OF MORNING SUN TO NO SUN. IT JUST SEEMS TO BE HAPPY ANYWHERE. BUT I COME TO YOU FOR THE RILGHT SPOT. THANKS, KAREN

  19. Sandra Clemons says:

    Do you have any answers to these questions posted above?
    I bought what I think is Vriesea and know to cut the stem of the flower way back but how can I start another one? Are there seeds in that spike or flower?
    Sandy April 26

  20. sarah King says:

    what do I do with the pup that is on the side of the mother plant?…. Cut it off and repot??????? Its about 10 inches tall now.

  21. Johnny Emerson Neeley says:

    I have a brom. I can’t identify. The base is about 4″ across, a main stem, rises about 5′, at the top, branches out 8 6″ limbs, there hangs, small banana shaped, flowers, 1/2″ long. Very nice, pungent, smelling little flowers? There were 2 on my undeveloped property, 30 years ago, and still propagating. What are they? My property, is in West central Arkansas.

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